Missouri senior making most of backup role - KMOV.com

Missouri senior making most of backup role

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri has won nine of 10 since Matt Lawrence lost his starting job. Yet it's turned out to be a win-win situation.

The senior sharpshooter has been every bit as valuable coming off the bench for the 17th-ranked Tigers. Lawrence had 13 points in 22 minutes in Saturday's 70-47 blowout over Nebraska, the school that beat Missouri in the Big 12 opener to prompt coach Mike Anderson's lineup shakeup.

Lawrence's acceptance of a lesser role behind freshman Kim English has been a key to Missouri's climb into contention in the Big 12 race. He was one of nine players logging 14 or more minutes against Nebraska, and one of eight players getting 16 or more minutes in last Monday's come-from-behind victory over Kansas.

A less than positive attitude from Lawrence, who started 61 of 62 games his sophomore and junior seasons and the first 16 games this season, could have dulled Missouri's momentum. Instead, he's embraced Anderson's often-repeated stance that it doesn't matter who starts for a team contending for the Big 12 title.

"I'm enjoying it, actually," Lawrence said. "It takes some of the pressure off me because I can sit back and watch how they're guarding guys like Kim and some of the others."

For a long time Lawrence was typecast as a spot-up, long-range shooter who needed time to launch. Most of his high scoring games have come against lesser competition, while teams that have been able to deal with Missouri's full-court press have been able to neutralize him.

In his new role, Lawrence doesn't feel the necessity to provide instant offense. He reached double figures for the first time in five games against Nebraska and hasn't been sweating the scoring because Missouri (22-4, 9-2 Big 12) seems to have developed so many options.

Case in point: guard Zaire Taylor hit the winning shot against each Kansas and Texas and had only two points against Nebraska on 1-for-5 shooting. English was scoreless and missed all five shots against Nebraska. Yet the Tigers didn't miss a beat.

Lawrence added three steals and two assists against Kansas. And even more impressive than his 3-for-8 accuracy in 3-pointers against Nebraska was a nifty layup off a give-and-go with DeMarre Carroll.

"Knowing guys can go out there and do things we weren't capable of before is good," Lawrence said "I used to be seen as the only long-range shooter and now we've got three or four players who can shoot like that, and that lets me do other things."

Leo Lyons, Missouri's second-leading scorer, was singing the same tune after the Nebraska game. Lyons had 10 rebounds and nine points, but took only two shots.

"I knew the double-team was coming, so it wasn't my job to score," Lyons said. "It was those guys' job to knock down shots, and all I had to do was rebound and play defense."

Nebraska (15-8, 5-5) had too many players to guard in the second half, when the Cornhuskers were outscored 45-28. Missouri opened a 17-point lead after going 7-for-9 with three 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.

Taking care of business on the other end fueled the breakaway that led to Missouri's 17th straight victory at home. Nebraska was held to 28.6 percent shooting with a season-worst 20 turnovers that led to 28 points.

"You've got to stay close to Missouri," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. "If Missouri gets out of sight, it's hard to play catchup -- especially on the road."

Missouri has a week off before hitting the homestretch in Big 12 play at Colorado Feb. 21, with games remaining against the schools they're chasing at Kansas on March 1 and at home against Oklahoma on March 4, before the conference tournament.

Anderson wasn't sure if having a week off was a good idea, planning scrimmages to keep players sharp during the week.

"I've got a lot of gym rats, so they'll be in the gym," Anderson said. "I don't ever take it easy on them."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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